Monday, 24 October 2016

Wipe On Wipe Off

The cycling hill climb at Coxhoe in Durham and organised by Houghton was the last of the short season events for me and I delivered a moderate ride over 3 minutes to finish yet again in the bottom half of the field. It only proves that you need to train for an event rather than just rolling up and hoping for the best. The climb was short and not really sufficiently steep to suit me. I think next season I may consider moving to the Alps to improve. The cost of living there might be a factor however.  When I dropped into Geneva last month paying for drinks and dinner was like handing over monopoly money. I didn't even get to put a hotel on a square.

So, with the cycling season over, I reverted to my latest misjudged adventure: Karate.

Saturday morning was like waiting outside the headmasters office. A cold sweat. An unwelcome churning in the gut. I was sure I could find a relevant paragraph in the Book of Revelation describing what was about to unfold as I waited for 3 hours for my debut appearance at 'kumite' (a karate term which broadly means 'individual sparring'). All this turmoil took place at the North of England Karate Championships. I was entered into the individual kumite and the team kumite.  Two minutes a bout.

As an aside, I am a fifty something man of small stature. I am not in the peak of youth. I remember the test card and the tufty club. I remember Fanny's Johnny.

There is, I understand, a condition described as 'small man syndrome'. It can result in small men having a chip o'nt shoulder.  Being small doesn't have to be a syndrome, though. I don't feel the need to prove myself every day. I'm even considered quite tall in Glasgow.

I also spend a considerable time trying to loose weight; or, at least, trying to avoid too much rubbish. Watching the Great British Bake off leaves me cold and not wanting to pick up a rolling pin, unlike Aunt Aggie who likes nothing better than a elegant slice of Prinzregententorte, a workmanlike wedge of parkin or a gobful of rum baba, shoe horned in between her breaks for chanter practice. Don't get me wrong, I love cakes, just that to a runner, they represent the enemy (except at the end of a race or run, when they're your best friend and you've earned it). Mostly, I quite like being the height I am. What I draw from all the above, therefore, is that I'm a good candidate for having sand kicked in my face.

It was pointed out to me by Mrs Mac, an impartial viewer at Saturdays event (and who was struggling to work out what the f*7c was going on), that, at least in boxing, the lightweights fight the other lightweights and the big bruisers stick to their own; not so in this martial art.

My adversary turned out to be a large man in white pyjamas. Perhaps an athletic 16 stoner. He didn't take long to make prompt contact with my eye socket (among other things) shortly after I laid him low with a reverse kick to the abdomen, which the referee advised against.  Swift and merciless justice was bestowed on me for my impertinence. He progressed to the next round. I failed to score any points and bowed my way out of the ring to await my fate in the team event (another 2 minute bout of pain and loathing in Wearside). Later that afternoon I lasted another two minutes without injury, but failed to score any points. I wasn't downbeat however, even as I felt my left eye puffing up and blackening as I shuffled again out of the fighting square. Simply more practice required. That, and some corrective surgery to add another 5 or 6 inches to my spine, arms and legs and a few more cakes. I left the meeting with a feeling of exhaustion and relief. I had a karate hangover yesterday and spent the wet afternoon doing family history. This could be my new calling.

However, the end of the bike season means I get to return to running and I was welcomed at 4pm when I slid back the glass door in the bedroom cupboard by all the jostling from the various pairs of trainers, looking up hopefully and shouting 'me', 'me', 'me', in their little trainer voices.

After 6 miles through the wet and leaf strewn woods, I relaxed back home with a cuppa, a well fingered copy of the Bruce Lee Courier and a couple of Aggies rum babas. What am I like?

Monday, 3 October 2016

Allen Valley Velo Hillclimb 2016

I am still buzzing from yesterdays two stage hill climb event at Allendale. What is there to buzz about? I'm not sure, but me and the youngster beetled over there into the cloud covered dale for a spot of cycle racing. I had been to a wedding reception the night before and crawled into bed at 1:30am the previous evening, so not as 'fresh' as I might have been at 8am on a Sunday morning, albeit that the night before I'd been bouncing around the dance floor to the Cult and Madness like a loon. The first stage is a long 4 miler and suits the time trialist's really. It was Cat's first of this type of event and I had refurbished the Viner. Her seat position is not quite right but I said it shouldn't matter as she needed to be up off the seat throughout, unless, that was, she wasn't trying. She cruised up the first stage, a steady long hill. She said afterwards she thought she should have maybe tried harder, as a rake of folk passed her. She was getting the hang of this racing lark.

I toiled abit on the morning climb and after the first stage 18:03 minutes sat around in 42nd place. At the end of the climb above the mist, I made sure I had a good boak. Nothing like a dry heave with a slight bitter aftertaste of bile from the previous nights pulled pork and Tetleys to freshen up the breath. You wont find that in any of the training manuals.
After tea and cake at Whitfield Village Hall, we cracked on with the 2nd stage, a sharper, shorter affair. A great crowd with flags and cowbells had gathered at the first hairpin and for a second or two it was as near to The Galibier and the Tour as I am ever going to make. As the sun warmed the tarmac, I finished in 7:14 and 38th for the second stage. Ha, so there is hope, I thought.
So no prizes, no autographs, but a right laugh and terrific little event organised by Allen Valley Velo. The next ones at Quarrington Hill in Durham in a fortnight, so best either cut down on the digestives or get myself a doctors prescription; seems to be all the rage at the mo!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Breaking Bad

Are my running days over? Well, that’s the question on no ones lips.  Things  ‘a la pied’ have gone down the pan since May and I’ve been wracking my tiny mind to work out what the issue is. As times gone by and summer has turned to Autumn (eventually), the penny’s dropped and it was obvious, really, from the start.  The broken ribs thing was a red herring.  It all started, really, early this summer. I had a cerebral Road to Damascus moment early in May.  No, it wasn’t a Bob and Bing film that never made it to the silver screen. Instead, I thought it a good idea to return to Karate. In 1993 there was some unfinished martial arts business. It didn’t bother me. Believe me, there’s plenty of unfinished projects in my life. I’m looking forward to unfinishing many more.  I had, however, a weekend away with some buddies who stuck with it and hearing about their exploits, the spark was re-ignited. I got some new gear and by June was soon getting back into the swing of things. However, all the stretching and reaching, the repetitive dropping into stances and lunging, swinging and all things eastern has tested the elasticity of my left calf beyond its grisly old breaking point and while things are going well in the Dojo, trying to get beyond a 3 mile run these days is near  impossible. Coupled with a trip to the Xray machine man last week for a suspected broken wrist, which who knows how long I’ve been wandering around with, the ability to get out biking is now also a challenge.
Never one to be defeated, I’ve got a couple of hill climbs coming up so theres still something to blog about . It just wouldn’t be Autumn without some uphill buffoonery.  One handed buffoonery. So there you are, consider yourself updated. As soon as I have something interesting to blog about, I will. In the meantime here’s the test card..

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Get aff yer Belgian Buns

Its been five and half weeks since 'ribgate' and, now, its only a dull ache in my psyche. I did manage do keep mobile during the first 4 weeks and am now trying to claw back the lost mileage and dump the uninvited lard. This interim status was marked by an 8 mile hilly time trial run by Blaydon Cycling Club at the weekend. My first bike race of the season. The forecast was pants, but I fancied a run out on the bike so drove to Elsdon where it had begun to rain. There were 80 entrants and I was no.67 which meant I was off at 3.07pm. The start was 6 miles away from H.Q. at the back of Bilsmoor, one of 2 big hills that would require conquering during the event. I got my number from the Bird in the Bush Pub and rode out as the rain intensified, rivulets of water washing down the tarmac. I arrived with 10 minutes to go and had passed riders who had set off earlier going the other way, head down, arse up. Everyone was looking pretty bedraggled.

Soon I was off and rode the Condor. It's got a small gear range, and so this was a deliberate ploy. When you hit the hills, the steep ones, you start looking for easy gears, but that's not the answer. Keep it in a stiff gear and take some grief. Get off the saddle, find the rhythm, get the heart rate up. That's the way to do it.

As it was, I was soaked and with a stiff headwind all the way on this point-to-point it was 34 minutes of grinding. There were one or two folk on the Gibbet, the second hill, but it couldn't have been anymore different that this years 'Tour' where they had to fight their way through the crowds. Finished in 38th place from around 50 or 60 starters, so mustn't grumble. I even passed someone, looking sorrier and going slower than me.

There was a cheery spread afterwards and it'll be better when the pub's been refurbished and the big fire is on and crackling. On the day the weather just continued to deteriorate.

This week, I need to get the miles in and yesterday was a morning 4 miler and an evening 6 miler. All pretty slow I should say.
Sat here, I am musing about what to do today. I have concluded that the biking interferes with the running in terms of my knees and with the Loch Ness marathon looming I'd much prefer to do a Callum rather than a Derek type of run, if you know what I mean. Its only 5 weeks away. I think realistically I will be doing well to get within 3:20.
In the meantime I am working on a 2017 variation of the Gothic cycling jersey, so we'll see if I can get that organised and delivered before next July.
On the lard front, I've got 3kg to lose before Mid-September, so no more Belgian Buns. Smoked Mackerel is taking over my life. Not as cheap as it used to be, either.
It took a while to get through the 'Return of Captain John Emmett', a competent enough novel, and now I'm on with Cormac McCarthy's 'the Road'; Sure to cheer me up that one. Its quite a short novel set in a post apocalyptic world. Then a series of short stories by Alistair McLeod. The Canadian writer's output is right up there with the best stuff. But for now, its coffee time from the cafetiere. Ooh, la di dah (...but no biscuits, right?)

Thursday, 28 July 2016


Strap me down and tickle my elbow with a sausage. Its been a good while since I was last seen striding manfully about this cowering blog. Truth is, I walked off a step onto a slender piece of steel tubing with a nib at the end. The steel didnt move a millimetre. My chest slowly but relentlessly began to cave in and yield. No match. Ouch.
I suppose I should be pleased I wasn't impailed, rather than just incuring the damaged rib(s) I have and am trying to recover from. It was a little bizarre, given that I'd just arranged to run the Coastal Run, as her indoors was crocked. So there's been virtually no exercise over the last two weeks and much contorting as I engineer myself out of bed or try to carry out some rudimentary aspects of my life, like work and sneezing. That said, I am on the mend and should be able to get back out on the bike this weekend for a short ride.
The prospect of a fastish run (or any run) at the Sunderland 5k is water long gone under the bridge. On the plus side, my lower limbs have had a good rest since the Windy Gyle Fell race, where we arrived late and Organiser Phil G shoe horned me and the youngster into the burgeoning field. It was a lovely day for a race as over 100 of us set off, and even though I was 13th in the end in a whirlwind time of 1:10, Fletch was stubbornly ahead of me (as usual) and some upstart called Colin Donnelly. Just can't get the staff!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Black Rock 5 2016

by michael booth via black rock twitter site
For me, its probably the highlight of the running year.
Any sedimentologist couldn't fail to love the Black Rock 5, oddly actually a 4.3mile race that takes you from the village of Kinghorn in Fife, jumping and swollen with 1000 barmy runners on a balmy Friday night in June. The course takes you down the road to the beach, then acoss a mile and a half of sand, round a rock surrounded by water and then back. Coarse brown sand, fine brown sand and silt, all arranged in ripples that are a test to anyone's resolve. The tide retreated an hour earlier, but the route is a myriad of criss-crossed sinuous and oblique ridges, shallow ponds of stranded sea water and the occasional black rock and cowering jelly-fish.
The race filled up in an hour on-line earlier this year.
Race day arrived and I had a half day booked, so me and the missus arrived in good time and pitched tent at nearby Pettycur in the late afternoon.
As the sun tried to get out we had time to nip down to Burntisland for a coffee and a copy of the Courier. What excitement.

Getting back and getting the gear together, we walked up to Kinghorn with a couple of other runners and met the youngster at registration. Such was the excitement and anticipation the ladies immedately purchased 2 race T-shirts and disappeared then to get changed.  I have had knee problems this week and, having done no training, was having second thoughts about running. However two brufen put paid to those thoughts and as the crowd swelled, we met up, warmed up and made our way down the hill underneath the viaduct to the start.

The organisers patience grew short as the runners took ages to push and squeeze into the pen. It was chip timing so we all had to be behind the timing mats. I reminded him to remind the crowd that we were all chipped and eventually his barking dissipated and we were off with the shortest of pre-race preamble. I fairly minced down the tarmac toward the beach, a huge and noisy crowd lining the road, and wondered if my knee was going to hold out. In the event it was fine and we were soon on the sand where I caught Cat and I plugged on across the irregular rutted surface trying to find purchase on the corrugations underfoot.  Not good for the ankles, this one. We were making good progress and as the runners ahead strung out in a long line we were all working hard. I was caught by a Dunbar vest at the rock where I was blowing too hard to enjoy the strains of the pipers jaunty tune, and we hit the crisp headwind immediately after the turn, which was a surprise.

It didn't take me long to look for an easy time and I was soon tucked in behind a passing Military Training runner and I drafted all the way back to the tarmac. I was passed by a few more and couldn't find anything to give me speed on the last half mile, other than to tell myself to keep the remnants of technique that had largely been abandoned along the way.

It was down the hill, underneath the tarmac where an HBT and Perth runner came past, and then we were faced with the final lung shredding climb to the line. I was cream crackered at the end and felt the need to have a wee lie down to properly catch my breath. The aerobic effort required for that last climb as the clock ticked 28:55 took my mind right off my sore knee. 6th V50, so it could have been worse.
Cat finished a minute later for a terrific 2nd place behind the big striding Central Girl. It was a fair wait for the lady wife and as we stood we chatted to Jared Deacon who had had a run out and barely had a sweat on. We then made our way back to the changing, then the Carousel pub for the presentation and a couple of drinks. The place was bouncing. A fish supper and back to the tent after a good chinwag with a few locals.
Its a right good night, is Kinghorn. 

Monday, 30 May 2016

Dumbarton 10k & Sweet Gene Vincent Street

I turned up at the Clive Cookson 10k two Wednesdays ago. I was all raring to go, but found out to my chagrin that it was fully subscribed and there were no late entries or cancellations. It didn't say that on the entry form. Never mind. I wasn't the only one apparently who didnt get a place and left feeling dopey. But it was a nice night and lots of people milling around, so I thought what the hec, dumped the water bottle and pulled up to the bumper of the race at race briefing and off we went. Its a two lapper and I galloped around the course (as my brother put it later 'like a riderless horse'), but making sure I wasn't interfering with the proceedings. At 9k I peeled off and finished off with a slow 37 minute time according to the garmin. I had saved £15 and still had had a good workout. The cake was good at the finish.

A little while ago the Athletics gods down south saw fit to remeasure the Trafford 10k and proclaim it short, so my hard earned time earlier this year was to no avail. Not one to act like a downtrodden prole, I bounced back last week with a souped-up training session on Monday night (I always go well after homemade soup at lunchtime) and a race at sunny Dumbarton (the Polaroid 10k) on the Thursday night. No rose coloured glasses on for this gritty affair. It had to be a 'head down-arse up' workout. One where you are working so hard you havent time to wipe the slaver off your chops or wave an affable 'hello' to your running buddies as you pass them, not that theres many that come into that category.

It was a good hike up the road on Thursday. However, with pouring rain in Glasgow at 5pm where we picked up the youngster, it was thankfully dry, clammy and mild as we got to Dumbarton Academy. Plenty of toilets and parking so no rushing around and we warmed up along the first kilometre. The course wasn't what I expected as 700 runners hoping for a good time set off. It was chip timing and we pushed our way out along a flat cyclepath cutting through the leafy evening to Bowling, where we turned and made our way back to Dumbarton. It took me 4 kilometres to catch the flying youngster and she looked very comfortable on her way to a 38 minute PB. I cracked on catching a group of 6 with 2km to go just as they were fragmenting, and half got ahead and the other half fell by the wayside as we worked our way through a few twists and turns around the final kilometre of the local housing estate. A finishing time of 37:35 was very respectable and 5th O50 and another race I've always fancied chalked off the list. I couldnt have run any faster, but the braised steak lunch with curled up steak, knackered carrots and token mushroom from the borders garden centre is to be avoided in future before races.
Whats occuring here then....?

Next morning saw me plodding 7 miles around the city centre streets of Glasgow before breakfast. Actually quite a bit of hillwork involved running up Bothwell Street, Saint Vincent Street etc. Good for people watching at eight in the morning.

Its the Black Rock 5 on Friday, so no time to sit back and navel gaze. I've picked up a knee niggle and need to have a couple of early nights to get refreshed. Should be a good blast. It always is. Best race in town.